Business Life In Early New England

means and resources to pay her tax on tea and every other thing. Her prosperity for a quarter-century prior to the Revolution made her able to render it all; but right, justice, and equality were more to her than her increase of wealth and gain in merchandise.

The time of greatest depression in the business and industries of the American provinces was during the third and fourth generations from the settlers. This is proverbial. The wealth, the social life, the culture of the pioneers, were somewhat expended. The people were thrown upon their own resources. Their wealth they must gain, their schools and colleges could not compete with those over the ocean, and the sons and daughters had little except what they themselves made. The religious fervor had been expended, or at least was taking a new direction. There was in the air something which made them reach out towards new conquests. In times of emergency, Providence raises a man to hold, inspire, and lead. Military and religious leaders are not all that are wanted. "Poor Richard's Sayings" had a message to the people of the several provinces. The thought of the people was growing more Arminian, and such proverbs as these were seized by the common heart and mind, and the homely phrase had a wealth of meaning: "God helps those who help themselves;" "The sleeping fox catches no poultry;" "He that by the plough would thrive, himself must either hold or drive;" "Plough deep while sluggards sleep, and you'll have corn to sell and keep;" "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." Such proverbs rising upon the cant phrases of an earlier time did a vast deal to awaken a new life, and to enlarge the industries of the American people. The influence of Benjamin Franklin in issuing his almanac through a long series of years, and the following in its train of other almanacs of an imitative type, cannot be over-estimated. Practical life, every-day duty and faithfulness in worldly matters, did much to prepare the people for the approaching severance from the mother-land. This very practical life and increased prosperity for the quarter-century before the Revolution made possible the people's success in those trying times. Those sections of the country where the trades and exports were not numerous were hardly prepared to rise at the words of the patriots of Massachusetts, the home and promoter of business thrift and enterprise.

The "petty books" of the shopkeeper reveal to us a side of the social life not found in other records. The staple sale was West-India goods and New England rum. The meat, the grain, the wool, in fact seven-eighths of the actual necessaries, were home-raised. But little money was in the country. To "trade and dicker" became a high art. Farmers and mechanics exchanged work. Produce of one kind and another was continually being exchanged. Only a remnant of the universal custom is now in vogue. To learn a trade meant something. To be apprenticed or

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This page was last updated on 09 Feb 2006